Kartikeya, the Hindu deity and offspring of Shiva and Parvati, has many names – Muruga, Skanda, Arumugha, etc. Skanda Sashti festival is observed in his honor. Skanda means many things like a prince, a learned person, and an attacker. Kartikeya or Skanda is the commander of the Gods and the Lord of war and victory. Skanda Sashti or Kanda Sashti celebrates his defeat of the demon Tarakasura. It is observed on the sixth day (Sashti) of Shukla Paksha (bright fortnight of the lunar month). The main festival is celebrated on the said Tithi during Aippasi month, but the monthly fasts are also important.
Story of Skanda:
According to mythology, the demon Tarakasura was causing a lot of problems, and the gods were at their wits’ end. Brahma said that only Shiva could create the killer of Tarakasura. But Shiva was deep in meditation, and no one wanted to disturb him and trigger his rage. Then Goddess Parvati and Kamadev, the god of love, agreed to help the gods. Parvati did rigorous penance while Kama sent one of his arrows towards Shiva. Shiva opened his third eye, and Kama turned to ashes due to the fire of Shiva’s anger that emerged from it. But his sacrifice and Parvati’s penance had the desired effect when 6 fiery sparks emanated from Shiva. These were transferred from Agni’s mouth and the Ganges to the Sara Vana, a forest of grasses that resembled arrows.
The seeds turned into six babies that were raised by six stars of Karthikai. Parvati later fused them into one baby called Shanmukha or the one with six faces. Murugan took charge as the General of the army of gods and waged war against the demons, Tarakasura, Surapadma, and Simhamukha. He defeated them after a fierce battle that lasted for six days. The killing of the demons with the Vel (a gift from Parvati) came to be called Soorasamharam, and it happened on the Tithi of Aippasi Skanda Sashti.
Skanda Sashti Pooja Vidhi:
When Panchami combines with Sashti Tithi, it is highly auspicious for Skanda Sashti Vrat. The fast is observed by taking a vegetarian meal once during the day. Devotees listen to stories narrated in the Skanda Purana, go to temples or worship the deity at home. They also recite Kanda Sashti Kavasam on this day. The fast is believed to purify the self.
The Pooja begins with a prayer to Ganesha, and then devotees chant ‘Om vali devasena samedha Shri Subrahmanya Swaamine namaha dhyaayaamii’ as they meditate. People pray to an idol or picture of Subramanya or the Vel. The Pooja Samagri or items include sandal paste, turmeric paste, Kumkum, flowers, etc. They also light lamps, Agarbathis, and camphor.
In Tamil Nadu, Lord Kartikeya is commonly called Murugan and is the patron god of the Tamil people. There is also a sect in Hinduism known as Kaumaran that is dedicated to him. Muruga worship is prevalent in places like Puducherry, Singapore, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, etc. He is also revered in Kerala and Karnataka. Guha, Velayudhan, Dandapani, Kumaresan, and Swaminathan are his other names. There are six very important shrines for him in Tamil Nadu. These are known as Arupadaiveedu and are found in various parts of Tamil Nadu. Devotees carry Kavadi with rice, milk, etc. in a Pooja Patra, or have their body pierced to demonstrate their devotion to Muruga on this day.